polyunsaturated fatsTag Archives

What are the healthy fats, really?

According to Catherine Shanahan MD in Deep Nutrition, eating damaged fats such as trans-fats and mega-trans-fats from damaged polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) encourages the storing of fat in the abdomen (omental fat) and under the chin. So if you’ve got fat there, it’s a sign that you need to change the type of fat you’re eating.

Avoid: hydrogenated fats (Crisco and margarine), vegetable oils, commercial salad dressings and mayonnaise, and anything fried in a restaurant since they likely use the wrong type of fat. NEVER cook with vegetable oil. This damages the PUFA in the oil, which in turn encourages oxidative damage of the cells.

Consume: olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and other animal fats. These fats contain mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats that are safe to cook with and protect cells against oxidative damage.

Healthy dietary fat is not something to be afraid of. Fat is a major component of the membrane of every cell of your body. Fat is needed for the metabolism of fat soluble vitamins. Fat is needed for bone formation. Low-fat diets are associated with osteoporosis. Fat is also needed for healthy nerve function.

I can vouch for this last one since low-fat diets including NutriSystem followed as directed have led to depressive episodes that required medical intervention. These coincided with dangerously low cholesterol levels. Once I figured out that connection with the help of my psychiatrist, I understood that my weight-loss efforts could not be based on low-fat diets. That is why my modified NutriSystem plan is not low-fat.

Looking at the USDA Dietary Guidelines

Today’s reading included a blog post by Denise Minger looking at USDA recommendations. The USDA recommends reducing saturated fat in the diet as well as reducing overall fat content. In their library of supporting documents, only one of the 12 studies cited actually supports these recommendations. The one study that does, a meta-analysis of studies, is later contradicted by a larger meta-analysis that shows no improvements. The first study is apparently confounded by publication bias. To further confound such studies, the USDA presented a pie chart showing where saturated fat in the American diet comes from. Grain-based desserts and pizza provide the largest portions of saturated fat in the American diet. But I just learned from the “Forks over Knives” post that China Study II positively correlates wheat with heart disease death and deaths from all medical causes. In fact, wheat correlates with heart disease better than any other food. Those grain-based desserts and pizza that we’re getting our saturated fat from have a lot of wheat in them. Meanwhile, animal protein and animal fat were negatively correlated in that study, meaning that death rates were lower. That’s an interesting finding from a scientist who promotes a vegan diet. So anything showing that saturated fat is harmful is likely confounded by the junkie carbohydrate and wheat intake that often accompanies the saturated fat. Furthermore, studies supporting increased intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils are confounded by the overall healthier habits of those consuming those oils. When the data are corrected for these healthy habits, the benefit of the vegetable oils disappears.

By the way, the cited USDA studies and also Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s results cited in “Forks over Knives” blog post would support my modifications to the NutriSystem diet for attempting to keep my cholesterol levels healthy. This further increases my optimism that I have made the right modifications. We’ll see when I get the results back from this coming Thursday’s blood draw.

As an interesting aside, the USDA was unable to be conclusive as to whether fruits and vegetables are actually good for you. They say further study is needed. Very interesting indeed! Results from China Study II would support the inclusion of green vegetables, at least, since they are negatively correlated to deaths from all medical causes. Fruit is positively correlated with deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in that same study, though. Have I not said before that fruit poses problems due to the sugar content? That’s why I decided to eliminate fruit from my modified diet. There are better sources for the micronutrients fruits provide among the vegetables, and I do make sure to include those.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.
Denise Minger. The New USDA Dietary Guidelines: Total Hogwash, and Here’s Why, Raw Food SOS.
Denise Minger. “Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique), Raw Food SOS.

Does the American Heart Association know about these studies?

I continue to read Natural Health & Weight Loss by Barry Groves.  I am currently reading about fats.

A study was done in 1965 by Rose GA et al to assess survival rates in patients eating different fats and oils.  In this study, patients who had already had a heart attack were assigned to one of three groups.  These were given polyunsaturated corn oil, mono-unsaturated olive oil or saturated animal fats respectively.  Blood cholesterol levels were lowered by an average of 30% in the polyunsaturated group, while there was no change in the other two groups.  At first sight, therefore, it seemed that men in the polyunsaturated group had the best chance of survival.  However, at the end of the trial only 52% of the polyunsaturated group were still alive and free of a second heart attack.  Those in the mono-unsaturated group fared little better: 57% survived and had no further attack.  But the saturated animal fats group fared the best with 75% surviving and without a further attack.

There was also a Finnish trial published in 1985 by Miettinen TA et al in which middle aged men were given interventions such as instruction on diet, smoking, and exercise and were also treated for high blood pressure and cholesterol when present.  The control group was given no such interventions.  At the 15-year follow-up, there were 67 total deaths and 34 heart disease deaths in the intervention group.  In the control group, there were 46 total deaths and 14 heart disease deaths.

Would it be fair to say that we are being given bad advice where it relates to heart health?

Barry Groves. Natural Health & Weight Loss, 2007.
Rose GA, Thomson WB, Williams RT. Corn oil in treatment of ischaemic heart disease. Br Med J. 1965 Jun 12;1(5449):1531-3.
Miettinen TA et al. Multifactorial Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases in Middle-aged Men, JAMA. 1985;254(15):2097-2102.